“Don’t get too emotionally attached to real estate Nash. They’re just boxes. It’s not which one you have, it’s how many you’ got”
All his relatively short life, Dennis Nash (the excellent Alex Garfield), has ‘busted his hump’ doing the right thing, working hard in construction, building houses in order to support his young son.
When recession hits and the bottom falls out of the real estate market, the work dries up, as do the mortgage payments, putting the family home that he shares with his mother, Lynn (a supporting role, but as ever an assured performance from Laura Dern), at risk of foreclosure.
We’re always good to find the money to make that elusive payment. We’ve all got a plan, but we’ve all got a sob story too, to justify just how we’ve found ourselves in such an unfortunate financial predicament in the first place; We’ve also all got an excellent lawyer on the case to save us, but unsurprisingly, that counts for very little in the eyes of the financial institutions, and more to the point, those that enforce their unsympathetic rules and regulations.
It’s one such ‘enforcer’ who, whilst poised to turn Nash and his family’s world upside down, will also provide an unexpected lifeline, but at a considerable cost.
The irony of the man who will break him, being the man that will also ‘make’ him, is not lost on Nash.
99 Homes traces Nash’s apparent rise from the financial dead men to his subsequent, rapid descent into the murky world of ill-gotten wealth on the back of the property repossessions market. He’s aided and abetted by his sinister mentor, the Larry Hagman / JR Ewing-esque, Rick Carver, (a stunning performance from Michael Shannon); he of the rather dubious, Carver Realty.
Carver has made a fortune on the back of the 2008 U.S. recession, but more pertinently, on the back of the misery of others. An individual driven by a determination never to be the man that his father was; cash poor and a victim of the system.
Can Nash justify his new found wealth and job stability to his family and more importantly, to himself? Or is the deep down realisation of what he’s got himself into going to torment him, in spite of the considerable financial benefits it brings to the table?
There are shades of Boiler Room and Wall Street in what is a quite excellently realised fable of moral dilemmas and a sort of warped, reversed American Dream that plays out with an unfussy direction and convincing performances across the board.
Much like the superb Whiplash earlier this year, 99 Homes is low-budget, relatively short, snappy and to the point. It’s tense, emotionally intense and thought-provoking and even a few dubious dubbing and syncing issues early on can’t detract from a powerful piece that lives long in the mind.
Director Ramin Bahrani, take a bow. 99 Homes sneaks in under the radar, yet it’s comfortably one of the highlights of 2015, so far.